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A case involving felony assault and manslaughter faces months of delays and almost ends in an innocent man’s arrest, all because of how the accused looks.

The incident happened late one night, as a group of seven friends were walking home in New York City. They came across a group of three transgender women, and when they found out they were transgender, a fight broke out. One of the men punched the victim in the face, causing her to violently strike her head on the ground. She sustained a serious brain injury, and ended up lapsing into a coma shortly after.

She was eventually pulled off of life support by her mother, and the case was officially upgraded from an assault to manslaughter. The man responsible for the punch later voluntarily went to the police station to take responsibility for the crime.

It would seem to be a fairly straightforward case at that point, but the problems were barely starting. Prosecutors were so convinced that another of the group of friends was the attacker that the case ended up getting delayed for months and months. The problem was that the man the prosecutors were interested in bared a “striking resemblance” to the attacker, and the witnesses were unable to keep the case moving forward. Quite a long time was spent trying to find any new witnesses who could help in the confusion.

Eventually all the charges against the other man were dropped, and the case was allowed to go forward. This whole situation just goes to show that even in a fairly textbook case, there is still the potential for things to go horribly wrong. For almost 18 months there, it was within the realm of possibility that an innocent man would go to jail for a crime that had already been confessed to.

Source: http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20150303/hamilton-heights/arrest-made-beating-death-of-transgender-woman-islan-nettles